Speech to the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand Conference 2019

  • Hon Kelvin Davis

Rydges Latimer Hotel, Latimer Square, Christchurch. 14 August 2019. 

Tēnā koutou and thank you for inviting me to address the Tourism Export Council’s annual conference.

I would like to begin by thanking each and every one of you here today.

You play a hugely important role in the tourism system in Aotearoa. Without all of you creating authentic, high quality visitor experiences, tours and packages across the country, we wouldn’t have the visitor economy we enjoy today.

When I was in China, I had the pleasure of talking to representatives from Ctrip, who I’m sure you all know are the second largest Online Travel Agency in the world.

It was exciting to hear their enthusiasm for New Zealand as a destination, and the enthusiasm Chinese visitors have when talking about our country.

Tourism Strategy

As you are all aware, Minister Sage and I launched the New Zealand-Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy earlier this year.

The Strategy aims to enrich New Zealand through sustainable tourism growth.

This means getting more value from our visitors, protecting our environment and encouraging visitors to come during the shoulder and off-peak season.

In order to achieve this, Government and Industry need to be working together.

That’s why during the development of the Strategy, MBIE officials worked closely with industry bodies such as the Tourism Export Council to ensure the strategy aligned with our shared goals and values.

The Government has four work priorities that we want to achieve in the next year. These include better co-ordination across the tourism system, destination management and planning, better data and insights and developing long term, sustainable funding mechanisms.

I want to look at two of these priorities with you today.


The first priority is developing long term, sustainable funding mechanisms.

High visitor growth has brought great economic benefit with it, but it has also started to put a strain on our communities and infrastructure.

The recent scale and pace of growth has outstripped the capacity of our system to respond in some areas.

This means that the economic opportunities afforded by this growth are not fully realised, and the pressures are not always adequately managed.

The International Conservation and Tourism Visitor Levy (the IVL) is one of the tools we have developed to try and address this issue.

As you know, most visitors will now pay $35 as part of their Electronic Travel Authority, and we have already collected over $2 million dollars. We expect the IVL will collect $450 million in the next five years.

The IVL is one part of a long-term sustainable funding solution.

Now, the IVL will not fix all of Tourism’s funding issues, but it provides us with much needed capital to shape the tourism system.

There is more work to be done in order to improve funding, particularly at a regional level.

As some of you may be aware, MBIE Tourism has been in the final stages of selecting an International Visitor Levy Advisory Group, who will provide advice on an investment plan for the levy.

During the selection process, MBIE considered the key skills that the Group would need.

These include strong governance experience, good investment decision making and an understanding of tourism and conservation.

I am awaiting all group members to accept their letters of offer, and will be making an announcement on the membership of the group shortly.

IVL mini-investment plan

Part of the IVL includes the development of an investment plan.

The aims of this investment plan are to:

  • contribute to Government’s economic strategy of productive, sustainable and inclusive growth
  • contribute to system change
  • have the flexibility to respond to change over time, and;
  • complement existing funding mechanisms rather than duplicate.

While the full investment plan is being developed, I am proud to be able to announce an initial investment plan today.

The IVL will invest $18 million in ten tourism and conservation projects.

The projects in this initial plan are investments the government can make immediately that will have tangible benefits.

Some of the tourism investments include the Milford Opportunities Project, a Tourism Workforce and Skills programme, and supporting Destination Management in high interest areas such as Arthur’s Pass and the West Coast.

These investments have been selected as they are excellent examples of what the Levy should be funding.

They are investments which are a priority for many stakeholders and agencies, deliver outcomes that would not have otherwise occurred and are consistent with the priorities to be released in the full investment plan.

The Minister of Finance has recently signed off this initial investment plan. Now the real work can begin.


The second priority is that we want to enable better co-ordination across the tourism system.

We want to take an all-of-government approach to the tourism system and look for opportunities to engage and coordinate with iwi, local government, industry and regions.

Better coordination serves two purposes.

It lowers duplication and improves efficiency across the system. For example, I want to see consistency from central government, and regional councils learning from one another.

Second, it improves the visitor experience. Our manuhiri do not see us as different regional councils or businesses. They see us simply as ‘New Zealand’.

When we are all singing from the same song sheet, understanding what one another are doing and working together, we can deliver truly exceptional visitor experiences.

One example where co-ordination could be improved is in our camping system.

There are some gaps in the current system.

There is a lack of clarity for visitors over where to go for information and how to do the right thing.

Because we don’t have strong enforcement, we can’t ensure that campers are behaving responsibly.

Further, camping is funded from a range of sources, not all of them are being paid for by visitors. This makes it difficult to ensure the system is being funded sustainably.

The Government is committed to managing responsible camping better and improving the system.

That’s why we established the Responsible Camping Working Group to look at camping across New Zealand.

I call it responsible camping - as opposed to freedom camping - to acknowledge that camping is not free, but has costs and benefits.

In previous years, we have worked closely with councils to help them during the busy summer period.

Last year, I committed $8.5 million dollars to councils to improve their camping facilities, hire camping ambassadors and develop programmes to monitor campers.

The second round of the Responsible Camping fund has closed and soon I will make an announcement about the results.


Finally, thank you for all of your tireless work over the last year.

Your mahi has attracted thousands of manuhiri to our shores and you have delivered high quality visitor experiences which demonstrate the best of New Zealand to the world.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to speak here at the Tourism Export Council annual conference.

I look forward to seeing what you can achieve over the next 12 months.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.